Grajaú to Capão Redondo

I think I hadn’t had an adventure ride for a couple of weeks so I was pleased when I could take 4 hours to head off to the fringes of Sao Paulo again.

The plan for this ride was to ride to Vila Olimpia station and take the train down to Grajaú. From there I would head south towards the ‘Ring Road’ Rodoanel Mario Covas (freeway) onto which I would make my way via some country roads and tracks. I would then take it north for 20kms and jump off at another bush track that I had discovered on a previous ride. This track would take me east to the edge of Capão Redondo. I’d then ride a main road to finally get a metro home from Capão Redondo station.

I set off around 3pm hoping to be back by 6pm although I knew this was overly ambitious. I had a fast ride along a very familiar route to Vila Olimpia station. I could have taken the metro from near our place but I knew it was only 20 minutes by bike where the metro with train connection takes 40 minutes. Bike is king in SP if you’re pressed for time…

At Vila Olimpia station there was a huge line of what I later learned to be festival goers buying tickets. Thankfully I hadn’t forgotten my public transport card and could go straight through the gates. The train was pretty full with people off to Lollapalooza but when it stopped at Autódromo they piled off. Ever heard of the Grand Prix at Interlagos? This is where it’s held. Seems it’s a good venue for festivals these days too.

Once at Grajaú I hit the road. I soon realised that I had forgotten to try a short cut to this main road (Avenida Senador Teotônio Vilela) but not to worry. Here I found that it in fact had a cycle path running down the centre of the avenue.

I have mixed feelings about these cycle paths. I think it’s great that the previous mayor put in a lot of new paths around the city encouraging many more people to get on there bikes. A lot of the paths are highly dubious however. A standard practice has been to merely paint the edge of a road red and there’s your path. The problem is that most the roads in SP have incredibly poor edges full of holes and undulations caused by heavy bus traffic. This makes for miserable riding on a road bike (or indeed, any bike). There are some decent paths and I’ll often use them instead of being amongst the traffic as it gives you a brain break and prevents incidents of irate motorists yelling at you and pointing furiously at the cycle path. You can’t really blame them but you know at once that they aren’t road bikers. So, to keep the peace, I dutifully followed the cycle path dealing with the usual glut of clueless pedestrians that dawdle along the path oblivious to your approach from behind. I need a bell as my short sharp whistle doesn’t cut it most of the time. The path also kept spitting me out at bus stops located on the median strip complete with people boarding and disembarking busses all oblivious to approaching cyclists. Anyway, I’m sure that won’t be my last rant about cycle paths…

Finally the path ended and I was once again amongst the traffic and happily so. Next, I was on the lookout for a right hand turn which would hopefully get me onto a more peaceful, country road. I found it easily as I had looked at the intersection on google street view and made a mental note about what was there. Pretty soon it got all jungly and I could feel the city washing off me. I really enjoy this transition from hectic São Paulo to peaceful bush which is why I do a lot of riding on the extremities of the city. The road surface was good, the jungle provided shade and the air already tasted fresher so it made for really nice cycling.

My next turn would take me onto a gravel road which would meet up with the freeway.

Of course there was no on ramp for cars as the dirt road just passed underneath but I soon found the local track which would take me up to the freeway. I took a little break on the track enjoying the last of the bush before I hit the freeway.

Earplugs in, I hit the road. I used to shy away from freeway riding thinking it unsafe but these days I love it. Great surface and wide shoulder. It’s a road bikers dream. You just need to take care with on ramps and off ramps. I don’t take the slightest risk with these situations. I make absolutely sure there is no one exiting or entering and come to a complete stop to do so if necessary.

I had 20km of freeway before my next bush track and it seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. I recognised the place to get off immediately having been here before from the other direction. Eventually I will have ridden on every part of Mario Covas possible, the impossible parts being the tunnels. No shoulders, darkness, traffic doing 120km/h. No thanks.

I jumped off and dragged the bike down the bank and I was back into beautiful, peaceful Brazilian jungle on a walking track that cars were unable to access. This would lead me to the edge of Capão Redondo, SP’s most westerly suburb. People who live in the better off areas of SP will tell you that Capão Redondo is a dangerous place. Certainly, crime happens here and there are some very poor and desperate souls living here for sure, but there are also many hard working, everyday folk who are usually very friendly and accomodating if you ask for directions or anything. I think that sometimes we tend to think that if a lot of crime occurs in an area, everyone must be a criminal!

This would be my third trip through here and it involved some main road riding. The road consists of 1 to 2 lanes for cars each side and a continuos bus lane. I have developed a bit of a technique for riding this kind of road. I ride in the bus lane and constantly look over my shoulder for approaching busses. Often you end up playing leap frog with them as they continuously stop at bus stops. I’ve found bus drivers in SP to be super courteous and professional. I don’t think a bus driver has ever honked in anger at me; usually a friendly little beep to let me know they are coming. I usually give them as much room as I can or, in some situations where I can see that they really can’t move over, I bail out onto the footpath.

It was a fun and fast ride to Capão Redondo metro station and soon I was relaxing on a nearly empty carriage. I would need to change trains twice before a 2 minute ride down the hill and home.